Archive | Reliability


8:05 pm
October 19, 2016
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Day Two At SMRP 2016 With Maintenance Technology’s Editors


Contributing editor Michelle Segrest and editorial director Gary L. Parr return for a second day of extensive SMRP conference coverage. This record-setting conference has been filled with excellent presentations, enthusiastic attendees, and a large number of exhibitors ready to help reliability and maintenance professionals solve problems and move their operations to the world of reliability. Listen to Michelle and Gary discuss the second day of SMRP 2016 here:


Our coverage today also includes several interviews with exhibitors; an interview with Marc Cote, SMRP presenter and our November Voice from the Field; numerous attendees sharing what they have learned at the conference; a brief chat with Rebekah Wojac, president of Maintenance Excellence Roundtable; and an exchange with Maintenance Technology columnist Klaus Blache about his Univ. of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s SMRP Conference, we hope that the our coverage of the show, today and yesterday, will help you experience at least a small amount of what this annual event for reliability and maintenance professionals has to offer.

Marc Cote is Director of Maintenance and Engineering at C.B. Fleet Laboratories. He was the presenter of a training session on “Performance Metrics That Matter” at the 24th Annual SMRP Convention in Jacksonville, FL. During his presentation, Cote demonstrated best practices for managing and training people, materials management, workload management, and asset reliability. He showed how identifying key performance indicators and measuring them effectively can enhance any reliability program. This exclusive video interview highlights some of the main takeaways from his presentation. You can read more about Cote and his maintenance and reliability success in Maintenance Technology’s “Voice from the Field” feature in the November issue.

Editorial director Gary L. Parr interviews Klaus Blache, director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville. Klaus talks about the center’s various programs, what it offers to students at three levels, and the various events they offer in conjunction with the program. For more information, contact him at

Editorial director Gary L. Parr interviews Rebekah Wojak, president of the Maintenance Excellence Roundtable, to learn about that organization, its activities, and its efforts to increase membership.


9:20 pm
October 18, 2016
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Day One At SMRP 2016 With Maintenance Technology’s Editors


Editorial director Gary L. Parr and contributing editor Michelle Segrest are attending the 2016 version of the SMRP conference. This year is the largest conference in SMRP’s history.


Listen to the above podcast Gary and Michelle recorded about the sessions they’ve attended, view some short video interviews with attendees in which they describe the hurdles they confront, and stream video interviews with a variety of exhibitors. We hope you enjoy the coverage and encourage you to visit tomorrow to learn more about what’s going on at the conference.


4:28 pm
September 16, 2016
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Quick Return-on-Investment for IIoT Pilot Projects

This slide depicts the infrastructure needed for one of the case studies.(Source: Mitsubishi Electric)

This slide depicts the infrastructure needed for one of the case studies.(Source: Mitsubishi Electric)

As I’m putting together the upcoming Industrial Internet of Things column for October, it’s hard to deny the return-on-investment (ROI) numbers being released at industry conferences and user conferences. At a recent ARC Advisory conference in India, three new applications — from Mitsubishi and Schaeffler — demonstrated the robust ROI for three different industry examples: Continuous Process, hybrid and a discrete production line.

Here’s a quick rundown of these projects and below is a link to the presentation at ARC in India:

These applications include a sensing system, a device and entire production line being connected to a cloud-based system. The waste water case study presented details the return on investment (ROI) and overall costs for a new condition monitoring systems for gearboxes on a line of pumps at this Germany utility.

The results are staggering. Four months after installation of the CMS, the company identified a €3,300 savings for gearwheel defects that were detected. Also, the process avoided a gearbox overhaul and loss of service.

In the paper mill CMS application, the Mitsubishi HiTec Paper wanted to add 26 smartcheck vibration sensors to better monitor a cooling system for its four-story coated thermo-sensitive paper system. After installing the vibration sensor at cost of €25,500, the paper manufacturer reported a €10,500 ROI due to the avoidance of three failures, service-loss and machine damage.

>> Download the Mitsubishi Electric & Schaeffler Group Presentation 

1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


1:53 pm
September 14, 2016
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Uptime: When Best Practices Aren’t Enough

By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

bobmugnewConsider the following remarks.

“Recently, our top executives announced that our cost of manufacturing still wasn’t what it needed to be, even with all the maintenance improvements and lean initiatives over the past few years. And while our quality and delivery continue to be topnotch, one of our largest customers served an ultimatum that they would be taking their business overseas unless we could improve our pricing.”

“Despite all the maintenance best practices we’ve deployed, we (and others) are finding the department under the cost-cutting knife again. We’ve improved our spare-parts management significantly in the past two years, including stock outs, inventory levels, critical spares, and obsolete parts. Our maintenance labor hours are 90% proactive. But, new equipment continues to be added to the mix to reduce operating labor costs. What should we do?”

Sound familiar?

The real goal

Cost cutting is not a goal. It’s an action deployed as a way to achieve a short-term business goal—one that’s often short lived.

Here’s the challenge: While executives may be preparing for another round of cost cutting, there could be a more powerful alternative. It’s going to take thinking outside the maintenance box, however, to look at manufacturing process reliability. The real goal here is to show management how it can reduce manufacturing costs and position the business for higher earnings growth by tapping into the plant’s hidden capacity.

I recently discussed this approach with a company’s top executives and plant-leadership team. They talked about how strong their business was this year and on into early next year. Their honest concerns centered around getting costs under control to improve the company’s earnings in light of the potential loss of a large customer looking for price cuts. They summarized their strategic performance indicators as three overarching goals:

  • On time, in full—orders shipped to customers on time in the quantity and quality requested.
  • Lead time—reduced time between order received and order shipped.
  • Cost per unit produced—lowest all-in, total cost of making a product.

These executives were describing their goals for a reliable manufacturing process, i.e., a process that performs as intended. Their vision reflects a real opportunity for the organization—one that eclipses another cost-cutting initiative.

Tapping into a plant’s hidden capacity can help cut manufacturing costs and position the business for higher earnings.

Tapping into a plant’s hidden capacity can help cut manufacturing costs and position the business for higher earnings.

Thinking beyond maintenance

Let’s explore this opportunity by thinking about reliable manufacturing processes, i.e., thinking beyond maintenance. The executives who spoke with me agreed to form an improvement team of hand-picked personnel, including the maintenance manager, production operator, maintenance mechanic/union president, front-line supervisor, manufacturing vice president, and the continuous-improvement/quality director. The team used the following data-mining process to get started:

  • Identify the strategic key performance indicators (KPIs), i.e., lagging indicators.
  • Mine company data to determine the leading indicators and what form they take.
  • Determine how plant performance is inhibited, according to the current data.
  • The next step involved a review of top-level indicators that plant leadership was focused on improving, including:
  • labor efficiency variance as a percentage of standard
  • indirect factory labor as a percentage of revenue
  • operating expense as a percentage of revenue
  • obsolete materials and work in process (WIP).

Team members then began to look for specific factors that contributed to labor, operating expense, and materials cost. They also looked for factors that could interrupt flow through the entire manufacturing process to the paying customer.

Based on the team’s review of various ad hoc reports from the company, the improvement team found the most frequently listed reasons for the plant performance losses to be:

  • ran out of work in process (WIP) to meet an order.
  • ran out of raw materials to produce to plan.
  • inaccurate inventory: WIP and raw materials.
  • schedule change: materials delayed upstream.

The improvement team also learned that material cost was the highest cost of manufacturing and labor cost was the lowest.

Asking ‘why’

Drilling down another level into the most-frequently listed reasons for plant-performance losses was the improvement team’s next step: For example, answers to Why did we run out of WIP to meet an order? included:

  • no reason
  • system quantity was different than what actually existed
  • some named items were defective and could not be used.
  • items needed were on quality control hold.

Asking Why did we run out of raw materials to produce to plan at the upstream production processes? revealed some similarities:

  • not enough materials on skid, wrong count.
  • some materials were defective, damaged.

Team members soon recognized that they were discovering why production flow was being interrupted in the plant. In turn, they began wondering if equipment issues, i.e., breakdowns, might also be leading to performance losses. Digging into machine-downtime-tracking information, they found documentation that stated: Machine down for repairs, no operator, no reason listed.

To learn more about the nature of repairs in the plant’s critical-constraint production department, members of the improvement team began discussing machine downtime issues with personnel in the maintenance and operations groups. It was learned that the losses were not so much about equipment breakdowns, but rather:

  • setup problems
  • equipment damage
  • adjustments.

By asking why, the improvement team discovered that machine problems interrupted flow and were possibly linked to inventory and quality issues that had a direct effect on plant performance and the top KPIs (key performance indicators). Unfortunately, other than through maintenance requests, very few machine-related losses were being reported, tracked, or systematically analyzed. This situation had to change if plant reliability was to improve.

Tracking major equipment losses

What equipment-related losses should be tracked to improve plant reliability? The improvement team identified the types of losses that would most likely have a strategic impact on the business: equipment-utilization losses. Here’s how team members agreed to formally collect and categorize equipment performance data for the 17 most critical assets in the plant:

  • Equipment capacity (designed or historical best)
  • Planned capacity losses:
    • Planned shutdown: not scheduled/no demand
    • Planned shutdown: maintenance
    • Planned downtime: not scheduled (breaks, shift change)
  • Planned utilization: time that machine was scheduled to produce something
    • Utilization losses (during scheduled operating time, i.e., the hidden factory):
      • planned downtime: setup/changeover
      • unplanned downtime: no or defective WIP/material
      • unplanned downtime: breakdown
      • unplanned downtime: no operator
      • unplanned downtime: production schedule change and/or interruption
      • efficiency loss: slow-speed or throughput rate
      • efficiency loss: minor stops/startup/adjustment.
    • Yield loss: defects/damaged/scrap output
    • Yield loss: defects/rework
    • Yield loss: startup/adjustment.
  • Actual asset utilization: the bottom line; what the equipment actually delivers).

The reliability mindset

In this case, the improvement team recognized that improving plant reliability is not as much about maintenance as it is about identifying and eliminating equipment-performance losses and interruptions to flow. And, to do that, it’s crucial to have equipment performance data that are accurate and timely.

The good news so far is that top-level executives and other plant leaders have agreed to identify and address the most significant equipment-utilization losses in the manufacturing-flow constraints. Stay tuned for more as this story unfolds. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at